Best Coast may be the ultimate end-of-summer band. The duo's fuzzy take on power-pop seems fully a product of Betheny Cosentino and Bobb Bruno's L.A. upbringing; it takes only one listen to pick out the sounds of the Beach Boys, Jan and Dean and other heroes of surf rock's past. Tracks like “Do You Love Me Like You Used To”” and “Sun Was High (So Was I)” are the aural equivalent of an Instagram sepia filter, both modern and nostalgic at once.
It was fitting, then, to have Best Coast close the Twilight Concert Series at Santa Monica Pier on Sept. 6, just days after Labor Day and after kids (which flocked, seemingly by the thousands, to the all-ages show) were back in school.
Ripping through 19 songs in 75 minutes – Cosentino did not even stop to say hello until after the third song, “Goodbye” - the duo hit most of the high points from both of its releases, with Cosentino commanding the stage like a Veruca Salt-era Nina Gordon. Her energy, even when planted firmly behind the microphone, is infectious. Wearing an orange-and-white dress that would look at home at a vintage fair, she was the personification of retro-chic; informed by the past while playing music dealing with modern themes. It's hard to imagine the Beach Boys singing, "the sun was high, and so was I," no matter their private predilictions.
Similar to M. Ward in She & Him and Johnathan Rice in Jenny and Johnny, though, Bruno's non-speaking role seemed marginalized. With Best Coast expanded to a quartet for the live show and the lack of big guitar solos in the band's music, it took until the encore for Bruno to get a chance to show off a bit, on “When I'm With You.”
It was clear throughout the night, though, that Cosentino was the star of the show to the rabid audience. Her exhortations of L.A. pride (including a shout-out to the Los Angeles Kings) drew cheers every time, even if the high school set didn't bat an eye at the pre-show song choice of Randy Newman's “I Love L.A.” Even the crowd on the beach, which could not see the stage and could only hear the show thanks to one stack of speakers pointed toward the sea, roared with approval at the encore break.
If Best Coast is the perfect band to take in by a California beach, dark-pop opener NO seem more equipped to rock the seaside town Morrissey described in “Everyday Is Like Sunday.” The L.A. quintet with the least Google-friendly name in music history played a 45-minute set filled with songs from an upcoming album and its independent releases (like its latest 7”, “What's Your Name?”) to open the evening. Lead singer Bradley Hanan Carter's voice is pitched lower than many of his indie rock contemporaries, giving a touch of Nick Cave to the band's otherwise sunny disposition – his clouds over their “seaside town.”